Governor’s rule being lifted from Punjab: Zardari

March 28th, 2009 - 9:08 pm ICT by IANS  

Nawaz Sharif Islamabad, March 28 (IANS) Governor’s rule inm Pakistan’s Punjab province is to be revoked and a controversial constitutional amendment could be repealed, President Asif Ali Zardari announced Saturday.
The announcements, made during an address to a joint session of parliament, meet the last two pending demands of opposition leader Nawaz Sharif and could see the return of his Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) to Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s government.

“I announce lifting of governor’s rule in Punjab. Punjab may elect its chief minister, whoever he might be,” Zardari said during his address, his second to a joint sitting of parliament in seven months.

“I propose to form a parliamentary committee for reviewing the 17th amendment. I call upon parliament to initiate a review of the 17th amendment,” Zardari said.

“The review and the amendments proposed should be finalised without further delay,” he added.

Zardari also urged parliament to devise a strategy to implement the Charter of Democracy governance agenda that his Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the PML-N had agreed on for jointly contesting the general elections originally scheduled for January 2008.

The elections were postponed after the Dec 27, 2007, assassination of Zardari’s wife, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

The PPP-PML-N had posted a one-two finish in the elections that were eventually held in February 2008 and had even formed a coalition government with two smaller parties. The PML-N, however, exited when Zardari reneged on the pledges made in the Charter of Democracy.

Governor’s rule was imposed in Punjab after the Supreme Court last month barred Nawaz Sharif and his brother Shahbaz Sharif, who was then the province’s chief minister, from contesting elections and holding public office.

The Pakistani government has now appealed the verdict in the Supreme Court, which is expected to overturn the bar.

The repeal of the 17th amendment was also promised in the Charter of Democracy. Zardari, however, had been dragging his feet on the issue, largely because it would leave him with only ceremonial powers.

Then president Pervez Musharraf had rammed the amendment through in 2003, transferring key powers to the presidency from the prime minister’s office. These included the powers to appoint the service chiefs, the chief justice and to dismiss the federal and provincial governments, as also parliament and the provincial assemblies.

Earlier this month, Nawaz Sharif won a major victory when he compelled the government to reinstate the Supreme Court and high court judges Musharraf had sacked after declaring an emergency Nov 3, 2007.

The restoration of judges had also been pledged in the Charter of Democracy, but as usual Zardari developed cold feet.

This was because he feared that sacked chief justice Iftikar Mohammad Chaudhry, if reinstated, could reopen the corruption cases against him and Bhutto. These had been closed in October 2007 to enable them to return home from exile.

Nawaz Sharif had led a lawyers’ long march to Islamabad on the judges issue and the government capitulated March 16, fearing the agitation would spin out of control.

Chaudhry was reinstated March 22, the same day Gilani and Nawaz Sharif met for lunch at the latter’s country villa on the outskirts of Lahore. This was the clearest indication yet that things were mending between the PPP and the PML-N.

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